An ancient terror turns up in Idaho, US: bubonic plague

An ancient terror turns up in Idaho, US: bubonic plague

A child in Elmore County is recovering from a plague infection, state health officials announced on Tuesday.

The child, whose age and gender was not released, received antibiotic treatment and is now recovering.

Christine Myron, a spokeswoman for the Central District Health Department, said Wednesday that the child, who has not been publicly identified, is back home in Elmore County, Idaho, and "doing well" after being treated with antibiotics in the hospital.

It is not known how the child contracted the disease, though it is believed that he or she contracted it either in his/her home city in Elmore County or while on a recent trip to Oregon.

The Idaho health department said plague was found in the state in 2015 and 2016 in squirrels.

Now in the USA, a plague vaccine is no longer available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the plague is most commonly contracted from bites from fleas that are infected with the bacteria, though people can also contract the disease through contact with infected tissues or fluids while handling an animal that is sick with the illness. Since 1990, there have been eight confirmed cases in OR and two in Idaho.

Credit PA
Credit PA

Pneumonic plague, which is based in the lungs, "is the most virulent form of plague" and "can be fatal" when not diagnosed and treated early on, according to the WHO.

In a press release, the Health Department said that "Plague has historically been found in wildlife in both states", and that "since 1990, eight human cases were confirmed in OR and two were confirmed in Idaho".

One of the more significant plague reservoirs is the western United States, which is why many parks in this region post signs warning visitors to keep their distance from wild rodents and to wear protective clothing and/or insect repellent.

It is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe centuries ago. Patients typically develop fever, headache, chills, weakness and painful swelling in the lymph nodes.

In wild rodent populations that harbor the bacteria, plague can thrive for a long time before humans come into contact with it. In rural areas with semi-arid forests and grasslands, these animals spread the disease amongst themselves.

Talk to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets before venturing out to ground squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label.

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